Lisa Manning, Ph.D.Syracuse University
Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
Your body is amazing. Only two cell types contain the complete instruction for its construction, yet the trillions of cells that make up your body have ended up in the right place. Interestingly, this self-organization is governed not only by biochemical signaling but also by collective mechanical interactions between cells. Recent discoveries suggest that such collective interactions cause biological tissues to behave as glassy “living materials” near a fluid-solid transition. But what governs this transition? And is it important for biological function?
In this presentation, Lisa Manning will discuss the latest insights into how cells control the fluid-to-solid transition and thereby influence pattern formation at the scale of tissues and organs. Inspiration is drawn from recent breakthroughs in understanding the glass transition in non-biological materials. Cells cannot control traditional thermodynamic variables like temperature and pressure. Instead, they tune their stickiness and the forces they exert on surfaces or one another. When this tuning goes awry, diseases such as cancer, asthma and congenital malformations can arise. Analyzing the mechanical properties of these living materials may lead to better tools for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.